Lee’s Retirement Chronicles: the Weekend

Don’t expect anything profound because my retirement weekends won’t be a lot different from the weekends when I was working, except my wife and I might take off for weekends away once in a while. And I’m STILL not going to waste my time watching the Detroit Lions or the NFL …. Not For Lee.

It’s still baseball season and college football is soooooo much more exciting.

Either way, thanks for stopping.



Lee’s Retirement Chronicles: Day 4

(Note: I am newly retired. The 2015-16 school year, which where I live began the day AFTER Labor Day, marked the first time in nearly 20 years that I was not in the classroom at the beginning of the new school year. Here is the next part of what will be a continuing series: “Life After Work(ing).”)

My normal Friday, not unlike my normal Monday through Thursday, when I was still working, began with a 6:11 alarm that would get me through to 6:20 after a gentle push (yeah, right) of the snooze button. Ten minutes in the bathroom (hey, I’m not a morning person) got me into the kitchen by 6:30 where I would lollygag over breakfast, e-mails and facebook until about 7. Then I would get dressed and be on the road by 7:15, often with a stop for a soda or coffee on my way to work.

I would usually arrive by 7:30-ish, chat with my coworkers for a bit and the students would start coming in by 7:40-ish.

Like I said before, it’s not like I’ve been sleeping in until 9 or 10 every morning. Not this morning, either. One of our bedroom windows is directly above the gate that allows access to our backyard. Exactly at 7:30 we heard the familiar “click-squeak” of the handle being lifted and the gate being swung open. Even before I got to the slider opening up to our deck in the dining area, our granddaughter was knock-knock-knocking on the glass door. As I opened the door to let them in, she reminded me that younger brother had to be to his elementary school by 8:20, then she headed back to her mom’s car to be dropped off at the high school.

Since I got my “Sam” money and my wife got her regular paycheck, we had bills to pay; that never changes. But since I’m no longer working, the paycheck to which I have become accustomed for the past 17-plus years was NOT there. I’ll get my first pension check the same day my wife does, but it’s going to be missing a couple of hundred dollars because of health insurance premiums. And my first SS check won’t come until the third Wednesday of October, so we’re going to have to do a bit of belt-tightening until we get settled into a new routine.

I DO work as a “stringer” (independent contractor, per se) for a local newspaper and with high school having started I’ll be getting at least one football game a week. And with Grand Valley State University playing almost every other week at home, I’ve got that going for me, too. And the West Michigan Whitecaps, the team I talked about the other night, won tonight so they’re playing Saturday afternoon. Woo hoooo!

I did a high-school game Friday night, in fact. The team I was covering scored on its second play of the game so I was hoping for something good to write about. Unfortunately for them, they did not score again until the final minute of the fourth quarter and lost 31-13. So, I’ve seen three games and only one of our “area” teams won.

The only highlight of the evening was that we got to look at a rainbow from the pressbox for most of the first quarter. In the third quarter, a train came through on the rail line that runs right behind the pressbox. As I love trains so much — the home where I was born was directly across the street from a railyard — I had to step out for a couple of minutes to watch it go by. I waved. The engineer blew the whistle. The guy videotaping the game for the visiting team watched with me. It was a good night, except for my stop at a McDonald’s where I ordered a shake, then had to wait almost three minutes because no one seemed to know who was responsible for what. I guess that’s what happens when you have high-school kids working on weekends.

I stayed up too late playing “Words With Friends.” No reason to get up early Saturday.

Lee’s Retirement Chronicles: Day 3

(Note: I am newly retired. The 2015-16 school year, which where I live began the day AFTER Labor Day, marked the first time in nearly 20 years that I was not in the classroom at the beginning of the new school year. Here is the next part of what will be a continuing series: “Life After Work(ing).”)

I was warned that I would not have problems staying busy, but no one said most of my busy-ness would not be of my doing. Take today, for example. When the phone rings at 10:45 a.m. — yes, I was up — that’s not always a good sign, especially when you’re not expecting any calls from the likes of a Sears serviceman or the guy who is remodeling your bathroom.

Granddaughter, age 14, a ninth-grader: “Grandpa, can you go to McDonald’s and get my some chicken nuggets, fries and a Sprite?” Grandpa: “Um, why?” Granddaughter: “I don’t have any money in my account yet and I’m hungry.”

Ah, yes, I forgot about this “School of Choice” thing and the fact that there’s a lot of paperwork involved. My boys have been out of school for so long, combined with the fact the my wife did all the dirty work when they were in school, that I forgot the tediousness of it.

There is a young couple we have befriended, partly because they were friends of our son and his wife who have since moved out west with a good job opportunity. I like them. They seem to be seeking direction and they’ve joined us at church a couple of times. One time I even brought her several bags of groceries when her mom found me on facebook and told me their fridge was empty. When I got over there with milk and eggs and other essentials, about all they had in the refrigerator was a can of pop and maybe two slices of cheese. I was amazed.

I’m letting them use our washer and dryer once a week as needed. Sort of reminds me of my college days when my wife was working full-time and I was going to school full-time. On Tuesdays, when I did not have morning classes, I would go to mom’s house and spend part of the day with her while doing my laundry. Pay it forward. It’s a good thing.

Anyway, I brought my granddaughter lunch, then had to go back a couple of hours later to pick her up, then had to go to an elementary school about 90 minutes after that to pick up her younger brother, my grandson (duh).

THEN about 90 minutes after that we had to go to pick up my wife from work because one of our sons, who is currently living with us, took my wife’s car to Lansing for a meeting with his new boss. Long story short, I had to scramble this morning to make some adjustments to some savings’ accounts in order to NOT have to pay an overdraft fee on my checking account. But when I picked up my wife, she handed me the check I was expecting for working with “Sam” because the guy who runs that program got an RTS (Return to Sender), but knew he was going to bump into my wife during the day. On the way home, we stopped at the bank to make doubly sure the account was OK, then decided to stop at a local Real Estate branch office for a “Customer Appreciation Meal” of fried chicked, baked beans, potato salad, baked beans, rolls, baked beans and ice cream. (Yes, I had three helpings of baked beans.)

I had singing practice at church tonight for Sunday’s service. The wife of one of our missionaries is playing for us as her husband is going to give the message, so we had an extended practice as we adjusted to each other’s styles. The only complaint: She slowed everything down soooooooo much, but we’ll probably adjust that on Sunday when our drummer shows up.

I sat in the car for about 10 minutes after I arrived home to listen to the playoff game involving the Whitecaps. They won. Yay. I get to go to another game Saturday.

Lee’s Retirement Chronicles: Day 2

(Note: I am newly retired. The 2015-16 school year, which where I live began the day AFTER Labor Day, marked the first time in nearly 20 years that I was not in the classroom at the beginning of the new school year. Here is Part 1 of what I hope to be a continuing series of “Life After Work(ing).”)

Don’t get me wrong, I AM still working — just not full-time anymore. In fact, I worked at two different jobs today.

The first, which runs Monday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., involves a young man in a wheelchair who has Cerebral Palsy. He’s taking a three-hour long computer class each of those two days and, because he’s in a motorized wheelchair, he needs assistance going to the bathroom. Check that: he doesn’t need HELP taking a leak or anything like that, but he does use a hand-held urinal, except that in his condition, he can’t hold it. I have to.

When I first met him and preceded him into the handicapped stall of the bathroom where his class meets, I asked: “How does this work?” He said, “Simple. I take out my junk, you hold the bottle and I go.” For that I’m getting $20 an hour, three hours a day, two days a week. Most of the time he only pees once; a couple of times he has gone twice. And once he did, in his words, “No. 2.” I prefer things like “taking a poop,” “dropping a deuce,” or, “taking a dump.” I asked the guy who runs this program if lifting and wiping was worth a little more. He said yes, but I haven’t learned yet whether or not it is. The guy was supposed to have mailed the check last week (today is Wednesday, by the way), but I found out he forgot my ZIP code, so he’s going to give my wife the check tomorrow when they get together for a regional meeting for their consumers.

So I worked my three hours today. “Sam,” as I’ll call him, only peed once. The rest of the time I was busy on my laptop, being occupied with my two newest hobbies. The first is collecting autographs, but it’s different from when I used to send out Sports Illustrated covers seeking signatures. That got kind of costly because, to keep them in nice condition, I would fold them just once and mail them out in oversized envelopes. I sold most of them — I had over 360 of them last time I counted — and bought a new big-screen, high-def, 39-inch TV for us a couple of years ago on New Year’s Day.

Since I love baseball so much, I decided I would send out baseball cards instead. There’s a dollar store not far from us that sells cards in packs of 20. Yes, the cards have been repacked and there are no Mickey Mantles or Stan Musials. The cards are mostly from the 80s and 90s, many of whom I am familiar with or have seen play. I prefer, however, to send out older cards to older players. For example, on three different occasions, I purchased 10 cards from 1960 at a hobby shop I frequent. In one batch of 10, I discovered that three of the players featured had died, but I still sent out the other seven and got six of them back. A couple of them even had notes responding to questions I asked; and one guy, who played in the first game I ever attended as a child, gave me his phone number and invited me to call sometime if I ever wanted to talk baseball. Cool.

Today I addressed 10 envelopes and wrote 10 notes. Now I have to wait for my “Sam” check to arrive so I can buy stamps. I was going gung-ho for a while, but now I’m trying to limit myself to 10 a week as stamps come in “books” of 20.

My other “new” hobby is playing “Words With Friends” on facebook. The internet connection is the building isn’t the best, so it moves kind of slow. I’m having good games with friends Chris and Mary and also with my middle son, Ryan. I usually win.

Today’s mail was late, but three of the envelopes contained signed cards. The other contained two cards I sent out to an older player along with a note from his son telling me his dad passed away in August, 2014. The web site where I get my addresses has not been updated. I feel bad.

I worked my other job tonight — sportswriter for The Holland Sentinel. The local Class A baseball team, the West Michigan Whitecaps, qualified for the playoffs and they hosted the first, first-round game tonight. They won, 5-2, over the Fort Wayne TinCaps and play again Thursday. If they win the series, the second round begins Saturday. At home. I hope they win.

The Lee Chronicles: Logging my first year of retirement

(Note: I am newly retired. The 2015-16 school year, which where I live began the day AFTER Labor Day, marked the first time in nearly 20 years that I was not in the classroom at the beginning of the new school year. Here is Part 1 of what I hope to be a continuing series of “Life After Work(ing).”)

For a reason I will not divulge right here, right now, I have not worked at my job as an educator since the middle of November, 2014, so getting ready for retirement was more of an easing-into for me rather than a leap of faith. I was not forced into retiring; as a matter of fact, I had planned to make this move before the 2014-15 school year, but my wife talked me out of it. She said if I could handle four more years, I would be able to collect my full Social Security benefit.
But things happened and, I repeat, even though I was not forced to retire, the time was right to walk away from teaching.
As I have not been in the classroom since the previous November, I did not approach Opening Day, 2015, with any sort of anticipation or trepidation. I worked the past 15-plus years in Special Education, a program whose summer “Extended School Year” was eliminated in Michigan as of last year, so this summer was no different than last summer. I didn’t have to go to the classroom, but because my pay was pro-rated over 12 months instead of nine months, I still got paid every two weeks.
My Opening Day was different than past openers, but no different than any weekday of the past three months. But instead of sitting home and going over my “honey do” list, I drove my son to Lansing. He quit his job in favor of something less stressful, so he had to go clean out his office, then go to the county clerk’s office to file some personal papers. Then we headed home.
Well, we headed TOWARD home. On westbound I-96 just a few miles from where we entered at I-496, traffic was at a standstill. I mean, it was a three-lane parking lot. I remember seeing construction on that side as we headed into Lansing, but I’m thinking there must have been some sort of accident to stop traffic dead.
So we turned around through the “Emergency Vehicles Only” escape route, and found ourselves on Grand River Avenue, heading west to connect with M-100, which reconnected with I-96.
But wait! There’s a McDonald’s, let’s eat.
We got back on the freeway, but had to stop at the Lowell exit for gas as the “Low Fuel” light and the accompanying bing-bing-bing” alerted us that we might not make it home without stopping.
The rest of the ride home was uneventful. Later that night it turned eventful as my son drove the car back to Lansing to grab a couple of things he forgot, then returned home again Wednesday morning, only to inform me that we were low on gas again, but he could not get his ATM card to work and the Low Fuel light was already on before he got to our driveway. (Sigh.)
And that was it. The evening was routine as my wife and I watched the second semi-final of “America’s Got Talent” and I voted for two of the singers, “The Professional Regurgitator” and the ventriloquist. (No names here because I’m too lazy to look them up.)
My wife went to bed and I stayed up past 12:30 to watch (my) Detroit Tigers pull out an 8-7 win over Tampa in the 13th inning. That’s something I could not or would not do if I had to work in the morning. Ahhhhhhhhh.
I think I might like this new lifestyle.

“Where are they now?” No, “What happened to them?”

I’m a fan of nostalgia. Like many my age (early 60s), I’m sure I’m not alone in this. How many of us laughed when, in “Back to the Future,” the McFly family of the 1950s was laughing at an episode of “The Honeymooners” that Marty had seen many times, but in the past, it was airing live.

Instead of reminiscing about what I’ve seen — partly because I’ve already seen it — I like to look at the credits to find out who some of the non-starring actors were and do Google searches to find out what those people did after the particular episode I saw.

In a “Twilight Zone” episode (Season 5, Episode 36) titled “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” the character of “Sport” was played by Mary Badham, the same Mary Badham who played Scout in the film version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This was the episode where Sport and her younger brother were able to enter a fantasy world through a “hole” in their swimming pool to live with other children their age with guidance and love provided by a woman named Auntie T.

Another “Twilight Zone” (Season 1, Episode 35) titled “The Mighty Casey,” featured Robert Sorrells as a robot named Casey who became a baseball sensation because he was unhittable. Eventually, the league The Zephyrs played in ruled Casey ineligible because he did not have a heart and was not human. Once his creator gave him a heart, however, he felt bad about striking everyone out and his career went nowhere.

Life kind of followed art for Robert Sorrells. Even though he had a part in “Fletch” as Marvin Stanwyk after he had appeared in some episodes of “Gunsmoke,” “Death Valley Days” and “Bonanza” as well as other TV shows, in 2005, Sorrells was sentenced to 32 years to life in the California Department of Corrections for the 2004 murder of Arthur DeLong and the attempted murder of Edward Sanchez in a bar in Simi Valley.

Which brings us to the recent airing on the IFC cable channel of a “The Monkees” marathon, starring Mickey Dolenz, David Jones, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork. In Season 1, Episode 1, an actress named Katherine Walsh played a princess, Bettina, who was in line to the throne of the land of Harmonica but her Uncle Otto was plotting to kill her to keep her from her royal ascension.

Davy rescued her from a drowing early in the show, then when he went to get his jacket back, the boys uncovered the plot and foiled Uncle Otto.

So I checked up on Katherine Walsh as she seemed to be doing well, trying to act serious while The Monkees were performing their typical TV hijinks.

Alas, Ms. Walsh’s life was cut short. On October 7, 1970, she was found dead in her flat in Kensington, an affluent and densely populated area in London. Although her death was cited as murder, no details have ever been known to be released, and the case remained unsolved as of 2011.

I’ve written a couple of letters of encouragement to Mr. Sorrells and one time he even sent me an autographed picture of him in “Mighty Casey” character. I won’t be able to do that with Katherine Walsh.

Thank you for reading.

More later.

Battle of Berlin 251 is gonna be just that — a BATTLE!!


Berlin Raceway Vice President Chris Danielson was very honest when he said the goal was to put butts in the bleachers at the race track this summer.
He was joking when he called his place of business “The All New and Improved Berlin Raceway and Entertainment Complex,” telling me I could drop “the all new and improved” part at any time. But the part about bringing people back to the small-town track was all about business.
Danielson and the folks at the Marne, Michigan track are going about that in a big way. Take the June 16 “Battle at Berlin 251.” OK, so guys like Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart aren’t going to be there, but Berlin Raceway is looking to the future the same way NASCAR is grooming its young stars.
Chase Elliott, son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott will be back. He’s finally growing up — he’s 19 — and he has been hand-picked by Hendrick Motorsports to take over for Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 car.
He’s what racing folks are calling a rising star.
Erik Jones also is gonna be racing in this special 251-lap race, that will feature necessary, instead of mandatory, pit stops this year to add to the excitement. He’ll be driving one of the regular Berlin cars being built by a familiar face around these parts: Mike Bursley.
“The car is being built as we speak,” Bursley said during a media get-together on Wednesday, May 13. “I had to come to the shop just to talk to you guys. I couldn’t be more happy to be part of this event.”
A lot of Berlin regulars are expected to be on hand, including Johnny VanDoorn, the winner of the last two 251-lap races.
Danielson also said they’re working on getting more out-of-town racers up to Michigan, particularly people from further south.
The winner’s share will remain at $10,000, but the entire purse has ballooned up to $100,000, giving more drivers more incentive to consider more a trip to West Michigan on June 16.
“A lot of people are scared to come up here because they hear that Berlin Raceway (and Entertainment Complex) is so tough on newcomers,” Danielson said. “We’re offering more money to get more people up from down south … and the live pit stops are going to make it more exciting, too.”
As one who has witnessed many, many, many races at Berlin Raceway, from the big-winged Sprint cars to the 4-cylinder cars that buzz around the (almost) half-mile over like a swarm of bees (according to ask.com), I can tell you that pretty much every time there are 10 or more cars on that track, there’s a good chance something exciting will happen.
Having over 30 quality racecar drivers in the Late Model cars that tour the oval at an average of close to 100 mph will make it intense, as well.
You know as well as I do that guys that win games or races or whatever enjoy the paycheck that goes with it, but once the puck is dropped, the first pitch is thrown or the green flag is waved, the only thing that matters is winning.
It’s not being called the Battle at Berlin 251 for nothing. That’s why y’all should get your butts in the bleachers on June 16. General admission tickets are $20, $10 for children ages 8 through 11.
Oh, I forgot to mention the belt that goes to the winner. Take a look as Don DeWitt, Berlin Raceway CEO and Danielson show it off.